May 8, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Influencer marketing has gotten some negative press lately, with advertisers voicing understandable concerns about issues like attribution and return on investment.
In June 2018, Unilever CMO Keith Weed went so far as to tell a crowd gathered at Cannes that his company would no longer work with influencers who inflated their follower counts by simply buying them.
“We need to take urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever,” Weed said in a statement that was picked up by several media outlets.1
When it comes to influencers, Weed’s skeptical gaze is understandable. Unilever’s relationships with influencers who have fake followers has been well documented. For example, analytics company Points North Group estimated that 25% of the followers of influencers working with Unilever brand Dove in 2018 were fake.
The Influencer Paradox
Despite this, the practice of influencer marketing is still drawing significant outlays from advertisers. Points North also estimated that North American marketers spent more than $1 billion on influencers in 2018.2
eMarketer estimates that, worldwide, marketers are allocating about 10% of their budgets to influencers on average, and that marketers plan to continue increasing their spending on the strategy.3
Marketers are stuck in something of an influencer paradox. Influencer agency Mediakix surveyed marketers in January and found that 80% consider influencer marketing to be effective. But 50% also said that spotting fake followers and inauthentic engagement was their chief challenge with influencer marketing, more than any other factor.4
Go Micro for a Better Influencer Strategy
Influencer marketing is really just the digital equivalent of an old advertising standby—the celebrity endorsement. In the 90s, Michael Jordan was paid millions for hawking Nikes on TV. Today Kendall Jenner is reportedly pulling in six figures for sponsored posts potentially seen by her roughly 109 million followers.5
But as thinking around influencer marketing evolves, some brands and retailers are moving away from influencers that promise scale. Instead they’re getting replaced by so-called microinfluencers and nanoinfluencers.
These influencers have a fraction of the number of followers that the most famous celebrity influencers have, but often deliver much better levels of engagement.6
Your Shoppers Are Also Influencers
Why are these microinfluencers delivering better results for marketers? One key reason is because they’re seen as authentic sources of information, instead of celebrities looking to make a quick buck.
In that sense, microinfluencers have a lot in common with a resource eCommerce sites might not be taking full advantage of—their own customers.
Like influencer marketing, a Voice of the Customer strategy has proven benefits. Our research shows that 76% of shoppers are less likely to make a purchase from a site that lacks Customer-Generated Content like Ratings & Reviews. And 74% said Customer-Generated Content influenced their decision to shop on one site over another.
When a product is backed by other customers with content like Ratings & Reviews, it gives shoppers the social proof they might need to pull the trigger on a purchase—the same way an influencer endorsement might. Brands and retailers with online stores can benefit from this effect by taking a more expansive view of what an influencer looks like.
How TurnTo Can Help
Instagram’s meteoric growth was due in no small part to its mobile-first approach. Our Visual Reviews product was similarly created with smartphone users in mind, making it simple for them to submit a photo from their device instead of typing out a review.
Those photos can be displayed on your product detail page in a constantly updated gallery row, just like a social media feed. Converse’s site is a great example of how customer created visuals can be showcased on a product page.
TurnTo also partners with services like Curalate, which lets you integrate visually focused social media into product pages right alongside content submitted directly by customers.
In fact, TurnTo’s entire Customer-Generated Content product suite of Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews™, and Checkout Comments™ is designed to help eCommerce sites gather more and better quality content from your customers.
Want to learn more?
1 Unilever to Crack Down on Influencers Who Buy Fake Followers and Use Bots; Adweek, June 18, 2018
2 Fake Followers Are Hard to Shake, According to New Report; Ad Age, February 6, 2019
3 Global Influencer Marketing 2019; eMarketer, March 5, 2019
4 Influencer Marketing 2019 Industry Benchmarks; Mediakix, January 2019
5 Preview: Kris Jenner as the Force Behind a Family Empire Worth Billions;
6 Are You Ready for the Nanoinfluencers?; New York Times, November 11, 2018
December 16, 2015 by George Eberstadt
Each year at this time, CIO Review Magazine picks 20 technology solutions for the retail business that stood out during the previous year. TurnTo was selected as one of them in their just-published 2015 list. Here’s a link to their official citation. Their explanation did a very nice job summarizing the changes that are taking place in shopper behavior and the resulting challenges and opportunities for online sellers. Reprinting it here:
Product ratings and reviews have been a staple of eCommerce since Amazon introduced them in the mid-90s. But the basic model hasn’t evolved much, while the online environment has changed dramatically. Phones have passed computers as the primary means through which many people access the internet. Visual content has become far more important in the online product discovery and selection process. Social media has trained people to value 2-way interactivity over passive content consumption. Messaging has taught people to prefer their text shorter and shorter.
Set against this backdrop is New York-based TurnTo Networks, the fastest-growing provider of so-called “customer- generated content” (CGC) tools for top eCommerce businesses and brands. TurnTo’s mission has been to update the basic ideas of traditional ratings and reviews to address the changes in the ways people shop online and how they create and use CGC in the process. To accomplish this, TurnTo has developed an innovative suite of customer-content applications for eCommerce built around this new environment: mobile-first, highly visual, 2-way interactive, and short-form text.
TurnTo’s line-up includes an up-to-date take on traditional Ratings and Reviews, a Community Q&A product that enables shoppers to get their product questions answered by peers who already own the items, a “micro-review” gathered at the point of purchase called a Checkout Comment, and a Visual Reviews product built around the reality that many people would rather use their phones to take pictures and video than to fill in forms and type. Together, these products fulfill the basic promise of customer ratings and reviews while taking the value delivered by customer content to a new level
Not only do these new and updated tools better meet the needs of today’s shopper, they also help online sellers address important challenges that traditional ratings and reviews don’t solve well. For example, stores with “fast-turn” catalogs, such as fashion, often have trouble building up customer reviews before items go out of stock or out of season. But TurnTo’s Checkout Comments start generating content from the first moment an item is available for sale. Or consider highly complex products like cameras and electronics. It’s impossible for reviews or standard product information to anticipate all the questions a shopper might have before purchasing. For that, Community Q&A is an effective way to quickly get prospective buyers the information they need. Or how about the whole category of do-it-yourself–from home improvement to cooking to crafts? Stores often want to call attention to the results of the products they sell–the projects made with their tools and supplies. Text reviews of product features can never highlight these outcomes the way proud photos taken by real customers can.
“Traditional ratings and reviews remain very important, and it’s crucial for stores and brands to use a platform that collects the greatest volume while ensuring authenticity,” says George Eberstadt, CEO, TurnTo Networks. “But it’s no longer enough to stop there. Customer behavior has moved on, which has created great opportunities for sellers to use these new types of customer-content to create better experiences for shoppers while addressing some of their most important merchandising challenges.”
January 29, 2013 by George Eberstadt
The essence of social media is that the content comes from users. A social graph is important for some types of social sites, like Facebook, where posts tend to be of interest only to people who have a connection to the poster. But it’s not essential. I can lose myself quite happily in Pinterest without following or being followed by anyone. It’s the UGC (user-generated content) that’s the key.
So by that definition, should eCommerce sites be considered social media? Emphatically YES. On many eCommerce sites, most of the content is user-generated. On this page on Backcountry.com (I don’t know if it’s representative – it’s the first one I clicked on), the word count for reviews and Q&A is 1,125, while the combined Description and Technical Specs word count is 179. On this page on Adorama.com, the word count for Social Q&A is 6,116. The word count for customer reviews is 1,302. And the combined word count for Overview, Features, and Tech Specs is 478.
And yet eCommerce sites rarely think of themselves as social media sites. Most of the larger brands and stores we work with have separate teams for “site experience” and “social media marketing”. That makes sense. You want to organize your teams around the 80% of things they focus on uniquely, not the 20% of things where responsibilities overlap. But a consequence of this way of organizing is that the social aspects of the site experience often get too little attention. The site experience team needs to focus on page design and navigation and check-out and cross-sell/recommendation and branding and loads more; social interaction is just a small part of their mandate. The social media team, on the other hand, has become the center for expertise on how the store interacts with its customers, and how to encourage customers to interact with each other and spread the good word. But the social media team’s domain is everywhere on the web except the store site; that belongs to the site experience team.
With the social mojo focused off the brand/store website, and the store site team spread thin, it’s not surprising that the user experience on most store sites is not very social. But just ’cause that’s how it is doesn’t mean that’s how it should be. In fact, by ceding the social arena to the social media sites, most stores are missing huge opportunities to create value. A different approach, which recognizes that eCommerce IS social media and makes social a high-priority responsibility of the site experience team, can address many of the toughest challenges that online stores face.
Challenge #1: Differentiation.
If other stores also sell the same products you sell, then your product detail pages probably look a lot like theirs. Likely, you both get the same product descriptions from the manufacturer and use the same images. Not only does this leave you competing solely on price (yuck), it means you have little chance of generating search engine traffic organically. Whatever margin you have left is going out the SEM window.
But social content is unique. Build social engagement on your storefront and you can generate content no other site has, increasing the value you bring to your shoppers as well as your performance with search engines. (Jack Kiefer, CEO of BabyAge.com, has a great discussion of this point in this recent webinar.)
Challenge #2: Customer Support.
Pre- and post- sales, customers have questions. Sometimes these questions get posted on social media sites. But more often, those customers come to your site, and one way or another (email, phone, livechat) they end up in your call center. That costs you $, and it doesn’t always make your customer happy. While many inquiries need your staff (e.g. “where’s my order?”), many others can be handled at least as well socially. Past customers are often more accurate, faster, and more persuasive than your own team. Really. Here’s some hard data.
And here’s a little illustration: I stumbled on a customer question recently at Overstock.com about a chair I had bought from them. This person couldn’t figure out how to make it recline. Since I sit in it all day long, I had a pretty good idea what the problem was. AFTER I sent in my answer, customer service posted a vague “We want to help you…” non-answer. Then, to my gratification, the asker wrote back that my post indeed solved the issue. (See it here.) Social (1), Customer Support (0).
Challenge #3: Loyalty
Shoppers who engage deeply with your site are more likely to direct-navigate back to your site the next time they need to buy something, rather than just typing the thing into Google and going where ever that leads. So what opportunities for deep engagement do you provide? Social interaction is the most powerful tool you’ve got in the engagement tool kit. In fact, in a recent study, we found that first-time buyers who interact with Social Q&A while shopping are 15-40% more likely to make a repeat purchase within a year than first-time buyers who don’t. (Blog post on that coming up.)
Further, social gives you an opportunity to reach out to your past customers and invite them back to your site that is completely different from the usual promotional material you send. For example, past customers click through on shopper question emails and return to the store site to answer at a 10% rate. And the unsubscribe rate on these emails is typically ~ 0.2%. Most stores using the TurnTo Social Q&A system tell us that, by these measures, this question email is one of the best performing marketing emails they send. Period. Not to mention that the purchase conversion rate for these past customers who come back to answer is 2-4X higher than that of normal shoppers.
With benefits like these, it’s time for site experience teams to recognize that eCommerce IS social media and start prioritizing projects that socialize the on-site experience. Leaving social to the social media team is leaving money on the table.
January 16, 2012 by John Swords
Congratulations to InkJetSuperStore for winning the Social Media Marketing category of Retail TouchPoints’ Customer Engagement Awards 2012!
You can read Retail TouchPoint’s article here and download the complete Customer Awards Report from there, but in a nutshell it was through a nomination process, the winners were selected based on, but not limited to, four specific criteria:
- Unique shopping/promotional offerings
- Customer engagement strategies
- Customer analysis
- Technology innovation
Using the TurnTo technology, InkJetSuperStore has increased conversion, AOV, and loyalty. Here are some of the results from the past couple of months.
- Shoppers who asked questions or read Q&A from others converted at a rate 80% higher than those who didn’t – an especially significant lift since Inkjet Superstore is a replenishment business with a high repeat customer rate and a very high conversion rate.
- The average order value of shoppers who interacted with TurnTo was 14% higher than the AOV of those who don’t.
- 16% of all purchasers answered the question “Why did you choose this item?” following check-out (through the TurnTo Purchase Sharing function).
You can see from the complete list of winners below, InkJetSuperStore is sitting in good company:
- Casual Male Retail Group (CMRG)
- David’s Bridal
- Foot Locker
- Hot Topic
- Inkjet Superstore
- Rutter’s Farm Stores
- Tasti D-Lite
- Urban Outfitters
And if winning the award was not exciting enough for InkJetSuperStore and TurnTo, George and I were at the Retail TouchPoints booth @ NRF on Monday as he accepted the award on behalf of ILan Douek, President of InkJetSuperStore, as Ilan was unable to attend.
Over here we like to say “When you connect your shoppers to your customers, good things happen!” and apparently that not only means conversion, loyalty and SEO for our customers, but now includes industry recognition…again, congratulations to InkJetSuperStore!
To learn how TurnTo can improve the metrics that mean the most to you and your business, give us a shout @ 908.752.9658 or email email@example.com (yes, a shameless plug from me).
July 21, 2009 by George Eberstadt
www.engagementdb.com provides case studies on companies’ use of social tools as well as a database used to analyze the effectiveness of different efforts. The site is produced by Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group and Wet Paint. Their new report shows a strong positive effect from social channels. Or if you prefer the highlights, here’s a write-up at OnlineMediaDaily.com. One finding that stands out:
As the number of channels increase, overall engagement increases at a faster rate.
Social is one of those tools where more really is better.
October 16, 2008 by George Eberstadt
The communications agency Universal McCann recently published a report called “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers?” looking at how much more influential the advice of strangers has become in purchase decisions since the rise of social media. Brands better not ignore this call to action — like it or not, the phenomenon is real and powerful. And in many ways it’s a good thing, putting more pressure on brands to produce superior products instead of just superior marketing.
But it’s not entirely a good thing. To the degree that these anonymous interactions replace authentic, personal ones, they represent lost opportunities. We end up with better stuff and fewer friends. When we get advice from strangers on a blog instead of calling our friends, is it because we trust strangers more? Because we enjoy the experience more? Or just because it’s so easy? Hey, there are a lot of strangers in the world – some have already written down their opinions on whatever product you want to know about.
But if it were just as quick and easy to find advice from friends as from strangers, which would you ask? If you said “friends”, why? Because you trust friends to give it to you straight? Because you know them well enough to calibrate their advice? (e.g. I know Gwen is picky, so if she says it’s good, it’s good.) Because it gives you a reason to check in with someone you care about? Even in the McCann study, in response to the question, “How I share opinions of products, brands and services”, the personal forms of communication (e-mail and IM) rank 50% higher (!) than the impersonal ones (blogs, reviews, comments). (Page 29.)
In the next phase of the web, we’re going to see our real world relationships woven into our on-line experience everywhere we go. (Charlene Li says social networks will be like air – they’ll just surround you.) And when that happens, we’ll see the pendulum swing back from stranger-advice towards friend-advice. And that will be a good thing, too.